Shots Down The Middle
Just makes such a difference I think, if the shot from the blue comes from an angle, from near the boards, it's not that big of a deal. But if a shot from the blueline comes form nearly straight on, the puck whipping in between the faceoff circles on the way to the net ... all sorts of bad things are more likely to happen (or good things, depends who you're cheering for ;) ). There is way more mesh to hit if the goalie doesn't see it or if it is deflected. Even a wide shot can bounce back into the scoring area.
Pronger was great at this on the PP last season, granted it didn't hurt having Hemsky on the left halfboards. And IMO they could have executed that even better if they could have gotten the opposition to believe they really were going to try a quick low play every now and again.
I mean every effer defended the triangle (net and faceoff dots at the corners) when we were all growing up, at every level of hockey. But smart guys adapt, the earth moves a bit when goals start coming from other places because you're too predictable.
After Anaheim was ousted from the playoffs Carlyle was asked about the Duck's powerplay troubles . He said that they tried for the extra pass too much instead of shooting, and that they wasted shots from outside because they couldn't get the puck into the middle. Of course that's completely contradictory, but he's on the west coast and a bunch of journalists have already written stories, many of which don't make a lick of sense, and surely one of those two snippets (but not possibly both) fit in well as a quote in their story. Bless 'em.
Don Cherry grabbed onto one of these (can't remember which) and beat it to death. He probably called him Carlyleee or Rand when blathering on one of his "just like I said!" bullshit tirades as well. But I digress.
Roloson pegged it though. "We did a good job of taking away the shots down the middle on the PK".
Last night on TV you could see MacTavish's plan with 30 seconds or so left in OT, he was holding up a little whiteboard for the world to see, including the guys in the Habs real-time video booth. He had three forwards out and Sykora was meant to get the puck, stride to dead centre on the blue line and fire. Presumably Smyth and would be in front by then too. The plan didn't work, but shit happens, can't fault him for betting on sevens.
And tonight we'll see the king of the "shot down the middle", Nik Lidstrom. Every bugger knows he's going to do it and he stills gets it done most of the time. Tremendous player.
As an side: This thread can be a sign up list for scoring chances by centres on the ice. Really good stuff from the guys who contributed last time, we're well on our way to doing something really above and beyond here. I mean we don't have the time or data or resources to do it like the teams do, but we can throw the darts nearer the middle by being more coldhearted about it.
If nothing else having a kick at it for even a period or two throughout the year will change the way you see things without trying. Even when you are listening on radio you'll notice that Horcoff subbed in for Stoll on the defensive zone draw that lead to Lupul's chance, and that the rookie sat and Stoll bumped to the wing. Or that the scoring chance that PDO has nicked against Stoll later on was right ... but more fairly it was really Horcoff line's fault, just a late change on the fly. All of us are wrong about plenty, and we all carry bias, but we can make each other smarter too.
Having said that, there's something to be said for believing in the magic. The clutchness, the entertainment, the niftiness, for riding the wave of the ones that go in off the post (what a player!) and the ones that just miss (useless!). Hell, this past weekend I bought a remote switch and had my four year old convinced that she could turn lights off and on by focussing, blowing on her fingers, and throwing her hand at the lamp while yelling A-la-kazaam! You should have seen the look on her face, it was priceless. Just because there is no magic, doesn't mean it's not nice to think that there is. So think about it before you do it. It's as simple as beans, but once you have a go the coaches are going to start seeming one helluva lot smarter and your local journalists and the guys calling into local radio shows ... less so. And you can't undo it. Seriously. It's inevitable.
Back to point: This should be a good one, I expect Sykora/Hemsky to be reigned back in big time. Too much talent on the Wings to fuck around. Shouldn't be tough for the coaching staff to respect the Wings, the players know, they know how badly they were outplayed last spring and probably suspect that the hockey gods are out to even the score. The bookies aren't giving the Oilers a hope in hell, but I think we'll see a good game. Special teams decide it. That's my hunch.
So, anyone interested in the scoring chance gig? Even for just a period or so.